Whilst much of Scotland has endured the wettest summer weather on record the Outer Hebrides, on the west coast of Scotland, has suffered the severest drought in living memory and the only Scotch distillery in the area, Abhainn Dearg, was unable to produce any new spirit for a whole three months over the summer due to the lack of water. Intrigued, The Whisky Barrel Blog team made the winding journey to one of Scotland's very remote Scotch whiskey distilleries for the second time this year to investigate how the dry warm weather has affected cask maturation. We were delighted to find our arrival coincided with a torrential downpour and so to find the distillery already back in full operation.
It's now almost four years since the first spirit ran off the former illicit stills of the Red River Whiskey Distillery, and with the famous copper stills now having bedded in somewhat, the result is a spirit which is noticeably softer in taste, less metallic and with some curious banana skin aromas. The classic bold barley sugars and farmyard flavors we are pleased to report are still prevailing.
Since our last blog visit in April construction has commenced on a new bottling hall with plans in place to build a new bonded warehouse and glass frontage to the still room in 2013. Hot on the heels of that Bruichladdich incident - Brian Cox, out of the movies (Braveheart & The Bourne Supremacy), had just spent a day filming at Abhainn Dearg for the forthcoming BBCTV series charting the history of Scotch and tobacco in Scotland, having also filmed at the historical remains of Kennetpans Distillery near Alloa.
And so into the warehouse. There are no butts or puncheon casks at Abhainn Dearg distillery since their large size and volume makes transporting and filling them with new make spirit a mighty hard task. Instead, there is a mix of hogsheads and barrels in addition to quarter casks and 'tubs’ reserved for enthusiastic connoisseurs looking to buy their own spirit. We were keen to see how one of our favourites, cask #4 an 18-month old fresh Olorosso hogshead, is maturing. As expected the warm summer has aided maturation enormously and since we last sampled this cask during our April blog those big brash aromas of sweet sherry, pine needles and wood polish have mellowed, softened and balanced stunningly well. Next year’s trips will be a total delight!
Makro had recently filled spirit into ex-Amontillado Sherry hogshead casks. Amontillado sits between the light Fino sherry and dark Olorosso in the sherry spectrum, the initial notes of buttery fudge, pineapple, pine needles with whisper of smoke on the nose with a big and fiery palate boasting fine cocoa, Galápagos Island ground coffee beans (that's quite specific! - ed) and sweet barley sugars are most promising.